By Joseph Leray
“Civilization V” designer Jon Shafer has successfully Kickstarted the first game from his recently-founded indie studio, Conifer Games — less than a week after setting the funding campaign in motion, “At the Gates” has raised the $40,000 needed to finish the game. Kickstarter funding is probably a pretty rough sketch for fan enthusiasm, but it’s clear that Shafer has struck a nerve with fans of strategy games.
“At the Gates” is a strategy game set during the fall of the Roman Empire. It borrows some tropes from the “Civilization” series — Shafer explains, for example, that it will include “goody huts” to encourage exploration — but it also looks to innovate, especially with regard to resource management and combat, both of which are affected by the changing seasons. Fields dry out in the summer, and rivers freeze over in the winter, and keeping your cities and troops fed will be a huge concern.
In an update posted to “At the Gates’” Kickstarter page, Shafer explains some of the bigger-picture ideas he wanted to incorporate. 4X strategy games — so called because players in these games need to explore the world, expand their empires, exploit resources, and exterminate their enemies — are about growing and building, and the collapse of the Roman Empire left a huge power vacuum for the surrounding tribes of Goths and Mongols to fill.
The fact that the barbarian hordes were largely migratory also opened up new gameplay opportunities, Shafer explained.
At any rate, Confer Games still has another 24 days to accept pledges and has introduced a handful of new stretch goals, including unit modding options, a map editor, and two new playable factions.
Even though “At the Gates” is coming along smoothly — the Kickstarter was purportedly to polish the game’s art and AI and to further iterate on its core mechanics — Confer doesn’t expect to be finished until next summer.